Army 10-Miler Recap

I went into today’s Army 10-Miler race with very mixed feelings.

I registered for the race at the insistence of my cousin, Jackie, who lives in Arlington, VA, just outside D.C. A few months ago she assured me that this race is a must-do. Great course (past all the monuments!), tons of crowd support (like the opposite of the Hamptons Marathon!) and a manageable distance (“Just” 10 miles after months of training for 26.2? Easy, right?).

The Hamptons Marathon came and went, and the Army 10 became the next race on my calendar.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to race it balls-to-the-wall style. I’m recovering strongly from the marathon, but I’m certainly not comfortably back in the 8-minute mile land I like so much. But I also didn’t want to just jog this race. I don’t do fun runs. I do races. They are called races for a reason. Am I going to win a race in my lifetime? Probably not. But am I going up against myself, and against a clock? And am I a crazy, competitive, borderline-insane person? Heck yeah I am.

I gave myself a rest day on Saturday to let my legs chill out in preparation for the race. Jackie said she wanted to run together and cross the finish line together, but we never specifically discussed a pace plan we were hoping to stick to.

I hopped on the Vamoose Bus (Fun to say, right?) at 8 am Saturday morning and arrived in Arlington sometime after that. I slept most of the trip and when I was awake, I was freaking out about running.

Remember the other day when I wrote about how my stomach sucks? Well, that hasn’t changed. I’ve felt like complete crap ever since Thursday night when I managed to convinced myself that going to the bathroom in the bushes, which I actually didn’t end up doing, is normal.

Jackie picked me up at the “bus stop” (side of the road) and we went right to the race expo, which was at the Armory next to RFK Stadium — the same place as the National Half Marathon Expo. Good times.

Hello, Armory. Nice to see you again! You look good.

The lines to get in were insane, because this is D.C., and they’re all “you can’t bring you water bottles in here, or your bombs,” so it takes a while to get through security. But they entertain you while you wait, so that’s cool.

This was the line just to get in. Damn security.
See? Entertainment.

Then the lines to pick up our bibs were just as long. There was lots of winding.

Wind it up. Like that Gwen Stefani song.

I was excited to be seeded in the first wave. In a race with 30,000 runners (Crazy, right?) I would get to take off first and avoid weaving! Yay! At least that was the plan. (Spoiler alert: We missed the first wave because I was in a Porta Potty. Typical.)

The Expo was blah, but I did find some free cheese samples. Free cheese? Yes, please!


Next Jackie took me to Eastern Market, which I am officially in love with. I’ve been to D.C. three times and I was pretty excited about discovering a new little gem yesterday. The market is filled with crafty things and food things and everything smells good.

Aw. Special.

And we had a Peepmobile sighting.


We got lunch and then walked around to pick up dinner supplies.

Jackie suggested cooking dinner instead of going out to dinner. I told her that as long as “cooking dinner” meant “she would cook and I would sit far away until it was ready to be eaten,” then yes, we should totally cook.

We bought fresh, homemade spinach linguini and some whole wheat linguini, plus broccoli and marinara sauce. Yum!

This is pasta. It is good.

We also did one of my favorite non-NYC activities: We went to Dairy Queen!

Dairy Queen vs. 16 Handles? I will have both. Please and thank you.

Peanut butter cup Blizzard? Yes. Yes, please.

Eventually we made our way back to Jackie’s “condo” — I don’t know how that’s different from an apartment, honestly, but she kept correcting me — did nothing for a while and then she made dinner and I ate it. Also, her friend Eric joined us, and his cousin is one of my friends from college. I find this world to be very small sometimes.

After dinner, Jackie and Eric took me for a drive so I could see the monuments at night.

I love the D.C. monuments, maybe more than a normal amount.

If I could set up a little apartment-type situation and live at Abe Lincoln’s feet, I would do it. And if I could visit Jefferson and his love shack daily, I’d be into that, too. Sign me up.

They drove me past Arlington Cemetery, which I had never seen before, and I got all weird and emotional about it. Good thing I was in the backseat and they didn’t notice. I don’t know why it made me so sad. I’m pathetic.

They also took me to the Iwo Jima memorial, which might be one of my new favorites. It’s huge and magnificent and I geeked out hard staring at the flag-raising men.

I ran right up to it all excited-like.

D.C. monuments during the day = nice.

D.C. monuments at night = so much better.

After our jaunt, Jackie and I returned to her condo and I fell asleep in roughly 8 seconds.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 am. I did all the usual things: sit-ups, shower, Body Glide, granola bar, a little bit of water and a happy dance.

Minus the happy dance.

My stomach felt awful.

I probably went to the bathroom eight times before we left Jackie’s, and as soon as we walked out the door I knew I wasn’t done. It’s not a fun feeling, as I’m sure many of you know.

I wanted to run a strong, hard race, and though I wasn’t setting out to necessarily PR, I obviously didn’t want to feel badly during the 10 miles.

We took a very crowded Metro to the start at the Pentagon.

OK so it doesn't look super crowded, but at the next stop it GOT crowded. I swear.

Today I learned that the Pentagon may look cool from above, but when you’re standing next to it, it just looks like a regular old, boring building. Filled with history. Or whatever.

We checked our bags and headed for the Porta Potty lines. They were very long.

Looking all matchy-matchy.

I did my thing, and then we walked to the start.

The race began at 8 am, and at 7:59 I was still waiting in line.

We missed the first wave, but started with the second wave.

I would like to point out that this was my first race running entirely without music! And I liked it.

Right away I loved this race. Even though my body was going all kinds of batshit crazy, there were so many spectators and men in uniform all over the place, screaming their pretty little faces off for the runners. There was music blasting at the start, and some sort of gun or cannon went off when it was time for us to get running, and I enjoyed that.

Jackie said she wanted to start off running 9-minute miles and then pick it up in the second half if she could. Deal.

The first mile was way too packed to do anything faster than a 9:30 pace. We were admittedly weaving like crazy, and I had to hold back from punching the A-holes who walked right from the start. Get out of my wave, crazies!

Sorry. That was aggressive.

Please get out of my wave, crazies!

The first few miles went by quickly and the sights were pretty incredible. We ran past Arlington Cemetery, my boy Abe Lincoln, my second-favorite boy Jefferson, and the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, which I’m not a huge fan of. It’s weird looking.

By mile three I knew I’d be making a stop at some point. My stomach was sloshing all over the place and it just wasn’t settling, and I was kind of freaking out.

The bathrooms were stationed every two-ish miles, and at one point the stomach pain got so bad that I seriously contemplated making a little bathroom for myself in a bush in front of the National Air & Space Museum.

I pushed onward, and we were maintaining an 8:55-ish pace. My legs felt tired, but they were OK.

At mile 6.6, a glorious thing happened: a row of Porta Potties appeared, and there was no line. I made a mad dash for them and I instantly felt calmer. I still didn’t feel great when I was, you know, done, but I figured I had fewer than five miles to go, and I could survive that.

When I stopped I told Jackie to keep running, but she said she was hurting. She’s been battling some sort of bubonic plague — or a sinus infection or something — all week, so she was attempting to run the race without breathing. It was impressive. It was also impressive how many times she spit and snot rocketed and stuff. She was snotting and I was in a bathroom. We’re one hot family.

I bolted out of the Porta Potty and picked up my pace so I could catch up with Jackie. It took about a mile, but eventually I saw her pretty little Sweat shirt up ahead. When I finally caught her, she did not look happy.

“I can’t do this, Al,” she told me, and I got all kinds of pissed off.

“Yes, you can. Don’t say that. You’re GOING to finish this race. We only have two miles left.”

“No, I’m serious. I can’t breathe. My feet are numb. I need to walk.”

Jackie was not enjoying my motivational pep talks, so I caved and agreed to walk with her for 15 seconds. We did this a few times from miles eight through nine, and then I told her we were running it out to the finish.

She kept saying “can’t” and I kept getting mad. I remembered Mrs. Coach Cane pushing me to my marathon finish, and I wanted to have that same effect on Jackie, but she wasn’t really into it.

We did bang out the last half mile at an 8:00 pace, and my finish time, thank you Crohn’s disease-induced pit stop, was something like 1:36, according to my watch (official finish time is something I am not sure of at the moment). Ten minutes slower than my 10-mile PR. Stellar, Feller.

Mmmmm yes I sure do enjoy sweat.

So yeah, I don’t do races for fun. Do I enjoy them? Yes, sometimes. But I run races to race them. Not against other runners, but certainly against myself. So it took a decent amount of humility to smile at my wonderful cousin (who is a fantastic hostess) and say, “Yes, we’ll take it easy.”

Immediately after finishing my entire body tightened up and I felt sick. Like, barfy sick. We got on the Metro and all the runners smelled like vile sweat, and yes, I love sweat, but not smelly, right-up-next-to-me sweat from strangers.

I think that I was just dehydrated, but I got a pounding headache and everything went black a few times. I’m pretty sure running a race two weeks post-marathon isn’t a super-smart idea, and I’m definitely sure that running it with a whorish stomach wasn’t great either.

But hey, the course was awesome, the weather was gorgeous, and the two-hour post-race nap I took was incredible, as was the chocolate chip bagel I scarfed down in an attempt not to pass out or throw up.

That, my friends, is my little recap of the Army 10-Miler. Great race, bad Ali.

Here’s where things stand now:

  • I will give myself one more week of not-too-hard running to fully recover from Marathonfest 2011 (It makes no sense to call it that, I am aware).
  • From there, I will devise my training plan for the Las Vegas Half Marathon in December. My plan is going to include lots o’ speedwork.
  • I want to get fast again.
  • I want to run good, strong, PR-worthy races again.
  • I want to kick myself in the stomach. Or at least make a doctor’s appointment to see what’s going on. I’m not really enjoying spending all my time in the bathroom lately.
  • I would like to write at least one blog post that does not include details of my daily bathroom experiences.

In other news, congratulations to all of the racers this weekend! Chicago Marathoners, Mohawk Hudson Marathoners, Staten Island Half Marathoners, Kona Beasts…I think you’re all wicked cool and impressive.



0 Responses

  1. Ahahaha, I totally feel you on the “a race is a RACE” attitude. I love it! And I appreciate that you feel that way. I also like the no-music racing. You may find it increases your speed and concentration to listen to your body and the rhythm of your breathing instead of to music.

    By the way, have you thought about trying to train for some shorter races, like the 5k? Or even the 800 and the mile? Don’t get me wrong, long distances are incredible–I so admire that you finished a marathon!–but… well, three things.

    1. It’s hard to up your speed if you are focused on distance running; it is hard to run so many miles per week and do the required speedwork.

    2. Even people with totally normal digestion have trouble running distance. Even my iron-gutted uncle says he had issues when he was marathon training. And I notice that, for me, stomach stuff becomes a real problem on runs that are longer than an hour. (Btw, re stomach stuff, I have ulcers; one perforated last year and caused pneumothorax just after a longer run. Not quite the same as your issue, but perhaps similar, so I understand a little of your pain). Obviously you’re aware of this, and I respect how you gut it out anyway, but if you shifted your focus for a season or two, perhaps you wouldn’t have to deal with such discomfort?

    3. You love to race, and shorter races are ALL about that competitive spirit, since they’re speed rather than endurance events! And you can do more of them, since recovery time for something like a 5k is MINIMAL compared to a marathon.

    Sorry for giving unsolicited advice. I just relate a lot to your racing mindset, and shorter distances were the solution I found. Thanks, as always, for your vivid, relatable post. Ciao.

  2. So sorry about your tummy issues, that is the worst!! It’s good for a newish runner (me) to know I am not alone:) Glad you were able to finish and encourage your cousin!!

  3. There seemed to be many more potties this year, I had to visit as well. The popular spot in recent years for me has been on the Potomac by the Kennedy Center. Classy, I know. The shuffle at the start of the race drives me crazy, I ran like crap this year and was stuck in the crowd for a while. It is a great run though, I get to check out the sites and visit friends with whom I’ve been stationed, I sign up every year.

  4. Boooo to your stomach! If it’s still bothering you, hope you make a trip to the doctor soon and see what’s up. Hope you rest up and take some easy days to reignite your training for Vegas. And run in the park with me. Yay!!

  5. Sorry to hear your stomach went wild on you. I am glad to hear you finished it though. I think it is humbling to do races like that and I am sure Jackie appreciated you hanging in with her. You are going to do awesome in Las Vegas!

    Oh and I am so checking out that Eastern Market when I go run Marine Corps in 3 wks! 🙂

  6. Ugh your stomach woes sounds horrible. I know how bad it can be sans Crohns, but with, oh my I cannot fathom the pain! You are a trooper for sure!! Way to hang in there and become the cheerleader/support system, that is not easy when you’re suffering yourself.

    May I suggest you take the week off from running? You can still workout, take a spin class, yoga, lift heavy weights (nothing fast, just heavy) and let your body recover that way. I completely understand the need for mental clarity produced by sweating, but I highly suggest no running for 7-10 days. THEN jump back into running. You’ll be better off training for Vegas 13.1. If you need me more reasoning why then hit me up. 🙂

    p.s. your opinions about the monuments had me cracking up!!! hope you get your whorish Crohns under control – sorry!!

  7. sorry about the rough race. At least you finished!! My marathon this weekend was pretty rough in spots too, and my best friend ran her worst ever marathon and was seriously bummed. I didn’t run my fastest, but I was just happy to finish. So have you chosen your spring marathon yet?!!

  8. Yikes, that sounds rough on all fronts! BUT I LOVE that you were trying SO hard to get Jackie to keep going, to stop saying can’t. That’s what I would need too and you were there for her. That is pretty awesome. And while I know you run races to race…your time is still great. And you finished! Right?? )

  9. So spotted you and your cuz in the crowd! I shouted “Go Ali! I love Sweat!” near mile 4ish. Eastern Market is THE BEST – and I LOVE that pasta stall’s ravioli. You will have to try it next time. And your cousin must live close to me – that DQ is practically across the street from our condo 🙂

  10. That is too bad about your stomach – but hey, you made it to the end in spite of it all! That’s so sweet how you were tring to instill ‘Coach Cane’ pep talks to your cousin.

    Now you really deserve an easy week!

  11. JAN IS LIVID. Jan wants to sing you “The Power of the Dream” by Celine Dion to make it up to you. I’m going to arrange Jan’s personal concert for you. Jan’s also working on the bathrooms – he wants to know if you want them at 1 or 2 mile intervals in Central Park.

    Seriously, though, take care of yourself. Your body may be telling you something (I usually ignore what my body is telling me so I feel like the pot calling the kettle black right now). I’d say take it easy easy this week and see if it clears up your stomach. And, then come do speed work with me! Yes?

    I like that you have a plan of attack – both for running and ol’ Crohnsy. I think you’re going to rock it in Vegas and Celine will greet you at the finish.

  12. I am mad impressed with your ability to run at all under serious Crohns Whore conditions. It would be great if that little slut would leave you alone. It needs to just evaporate into thin air.

  13. I’m sorry to hear about your tummy woes 🙁 THAT IS NO FUN!! But hey, you and your friend finished a 10-mile run before most people were awake today – that’s pretty awesome! If you need any workout ideas for the Las Vegas 13.1, hit me up! The half-marathon is my jam.

    Ummm, p.s. totally unrelated to all things running/healthy living, but I might be planning a Halloween party…You got plans yet?

  14. Go Ali!!! You may not have gotten a PR, but you finished the race with a whorish stomach and only 2 weeks after racing a marathon. I hope your stomach settles or at least the doctor can help you out.
    I hope your sister-in-law is feeling better, too. You Fellers are troopers. Congratulations to both of you for overcoming your difficulties and finishing strong.
    I really like the Washington monuments, too. I haven’t been there in ages.

  15. I thought bathrooming in the bushes IS normal. I run all my runs based on access to the facilities. I can definitely empathize with your stomach woes, unfortunately. Great job on sticking it out and trying to cheer on your cousin!

  16. Good job trying to get out there and give it all you could, under different circumstances I’m sure you would have rocked it! I hope you get to the doctor soon to find out what’s going on and hopefully your stomach will cooperate soon.

    Enjoy your easy week!

  17. Didn’t I tell your Crohn’s disease to back off? What the heck. It’s not a very good listener.

    I’m sorry your stomach is mad, but girl, with a mad stomach a couple weeks post marathon that is one HELL of a run time. Go Ali go! Also, now I want to do that race. Too bad Chicago is kind of far from DC.

  18. I definitely saw you today! I was running on the mall (not racing, sadly) and I saw someone wearing an I Heart Sweat shirt! It was probably you!
    I’m sorry you had such a tough race. It’s really great that you were able to stick it out and be strong for your cousin. At least it was a beautiful day? I loved the sunny blue skies this morning – they make all the monuments and the whole mall seem even more amazing. It makes me appreciate living in D.C.
    I hope that your rest makes you feel better. You definitely deserve a break!

  19. So sorry your stomach didn’t cooperate for the race today!

    It is hard to encourage someone while racing, especially when you don’t run with them often. I ran a 5k with my boyfriend a few weeks ago and it turns out he would have preferred silence to my “motivational” pep talks! Next time, I’ll keep the pep talks to myself. 😉

  20. ah sorry about your stomach!! that’s just about the worst feeling in the world. at least it was for a great cause & you got to see the beautiful monuments – minus the odd looking mlk. rest up & feel better!!

  21. Your stomach needs to stop being a whore.

    I feel the same way about racing to race.. or just being competitive in general..even if its not racing. I am competitive about… being right especially. I don’t care how wrong I am about something. I will finagle my way into being right. Every time.

  22. oooyy, so sorry about your stomach issues. And a 10 miler is not exactly a short race to have such problems. But hey, one week of easy running/chilling out and going to the doc and you’ll be good as new? I hope so! I’m up for a run any day this week, just let me know!

    PS, I always want to punch the walkers that somehow start in front of me. It makes me SO MAD.

  23. Aw, I’m sorry your stomach refused to cooperate this morning; I admire your attitude. The Army Ten Miler is my absolute most favorite race. The crowds, the course, the spirit. The announcer dude is really annoying, but maybe that’s just me. Also…the ATM is notorious for having walkers in the first wave, who mess up the runners’ pace. I wish people would be more considerate. Anyhow, I’m sorry you weren’t able to race the race as you would have liked and I really hope your stomach starts to calm down. You’re a trooper!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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